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Looking Glass Lies

By Varina Denman

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Chapter One
I woke up in the middle of the night in our cavernous walk-in closet. Again. For a moment, I enjoyed the wispy memory of a not-yet-forgotten dream, but then I realized the plush carpet had become solid rock while I slept, its gritty fibers pressing against me as though I were wedged into a sandstone crevice instead of willingly tucked against the back wall beneath my hanging clothes.
Good grief. You have to stop this, Cecily. I told myself the same thing every blasted time, but so far I hadn’t been able to do it. Even now, I didn’t move so much as a pinkie finger, didn’t open my eyes against the harsh fluorescent light, didn’t crawl past Brett’s shoe rack where I could see myself in the floor-length mirror. Not a chance. Because that would have broken the spell and sent me back to the real world, and—no, thanks—I preferred the fairy tale where high school sweethearts lived happily ever after.
My husband slept soundly in our pillow-top king, just on the other side of the closet door. The phrase sleeping like a baby crossed my mind, and I snickered softly because Brett’s snoring was anything but childlike, and his seemingly undefiled slumber had been brought on by over-the-counter sleeping pills rather than the serenity of innocence.
Besides, Brett wasn’t the one who was childish. He never scrutinized his reflection in the mirror late at night. He never beat his fists against his thighs until he had bruises, hoping a tantrum would somehow change things. He never bawled uncontrollably, wishing he could mold his body into what it ought to be—like Play-Doh—kneading and pressing until the flesh became aesthetically balanced.
He never once cried himself to sleep in the closet.
I uncurled my stiff legs, wiggling my toes and stretching while the shirts hanging above me caressed my skin like an old friend. The back of my hand bumped against solid wood: the leg of the chair where Brett sat every morning, tying his shoes like Mr. Rogers. Smiling.
For seven years it had been the same. On mornings when he found me asleep on the floor, he’d nudge me with his socked toe, wag his finger, and laugh. “Cecily, you silly girl. Get in bed where you’ll be comfortable.” Then he’d pat me on the butt as he slipped his cell phone in his pocket.
I hated that phone. Despised it. It was full of videos Brett didn’t want me to see, websites he claimed he hadn’t visited, pictures he made certain I never had access to. But his temptations didn’t end there. When he left the house, there were billboards and magazine covers and posters in shop windows. There were advertisements and mannequins and sultry radio voices, and there were women, everywhere, in low-cut blouses, short skirts, and thick makeup.
I couldn’t compete with all that. Evidently.
My hair itched my cheek, and I shoved it away from my face. Six months ago, Brett had showed me a picture of a style that he described as spunky and sexy—one side swinging alluringly over an eye, the other in a cute pixie—and he insisted the red tint would accentuate my green eyes more than my natural color had ever done.
Yeah, right.
I fingered a lock on the long side, pulling it past my chin and yanking it hard. Then I touched the tip of my finger to the short side. So very, very short. Brett had told me he would like it, but it hadn’t been enough.
Of course it hadn’t.
I realized his snoring had stopped, and my eyes popped open, then I held my breath, pushing the hanging clothes away from my ear to listen for bedsprings or squeaky floorboards, daring to hope that the closet door might open. That he might get on his knees, tell me he hadn’t meant it.
His breathing faltered for three seconds, then the rhythmic snoring continued, and he went back to sleep. Like a baby.
Pressing my palm against the ivory carpet, I dragged myself out of the corner, sat in front of the mirror, and squared my shoulders as though I no longer needed to hide from reality. As though I’d be all right without Brett. As though his divorce papers fit neatly into my fairy tale.
“You can handle this,” I said to my reflection. In a few short hours, I could start a new day, build a new life, create a new me.
I could go back home and start over. People in my hometown wouldn’t be surprised things hadn’t worked out between Brett and me—they had said as much when we’d started dating in high school. After a while I could settle into the complacent solace of small-town life, lick my wounds, and become invisible among the laid-back community that Brett had always deemed unsophisticated.
“You go, girl.” I lifted my chin, but the girl in the mirror didn’t seem convincing.
No matter. That’s what I would do tomorrow . . . or next week . . . or maybe next month. Okay, so it might take a while, but at least it was a plan. And it was a heck of a lot better than crying in a closet. Like a baby.

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